The industrial use of robotics has been, up to this point, one of the most profound ways that automation has impacted an industry. As production lines have become automated and robots have become more skilled, businesses have been forced to seriously consider adding robots to their workforce.
RoboBusiness reached out to Georg Stieler to share some of his thoughts on the robotics and automation industries, as well as the industrial use of robotics, new applications for AI and machine learning, and the differences between the robotics industries in China, Germany, and the U.S.
Stieler’s work at STM Shanghai is focused on research and consulting for companies seeking to add robotics capabilities, as well as working with parts manufacturers and end users, with the purpose of ensuring that robotics investments are successful and beneficial.
At RoboBusiness, Stieler will be speaking in the session What We as Investors Look For in Robotics, which will be held in the Startup Zone on the RoboBusiness Expo floor.
What got you interested in robotics and artificial intelligence, and how is it connected to what you’re now doing?
I’ve always been interested in new technologies, basically since high school. During my time at university, I researched on business model innovation as well as organizational design for companies to master radical and disruptive change. From there, it was only a small step to the Industrial Internet of Things.
In our work, we support suppliers and operators of robotics, sensors and motion control with various tasks – market entry, understand and exploit opportunities in changing sales industries, M&A. Still pretty close to what brought me into this field.
Which emerging technology or application excites you the most?
The possibilities evolving from the increasing capabilities of deep learning, machine vision and voice recognition are all very appealing. Especially, when these technologies act together.
For instance, what does it mean when computers will be able to understand the content of pictures like they have been able to understand text during the last decades?
What also excites me is the outlook that people who don’t know how to program a robot today will be able to tell it exactly what to do in the foreseeable future – just like what happened to personal computers with the introduction of the Macintosh.
What are the biggest barriers to continued growth of the industrial use of robotics?
At the moment, costs and limited capabilities. Security issues and uncertainty whether investments will pay off in a complex, fast-changing business environment also play a role.
With more use cases, the need to invest will rather increase than decrease, though.
Where do you expect robotics and AI use to grow the most in the next five years, and why?
There are different perceptions on this subject:
On the one hand, we have more robots and sensors in factories than around humans today. So, one could argue that the industrial use of robotics and AI will outpace consumer applications. Affordable, easy to use collaborative robots and AGVs are currently the most promising segments here.
On the other side, everyone with an iOS or Android phone uses some simple forms of AI already today. And we are only at the beginning – think of the fact that the iPhone got introduced just ten years ago and how this new device category changed the world since then. Due to rapidly dropping costs for hardware, lower safety constraints and a much better scalability of applications which can be used by millions of people in their everyday life (in comparison to highly specific industrial applications), I would expect the consumer IoT to grow faster.
Voice assistants and other smart home devices, if you want to consider them as robots, will be one of the most important segments during the next years. East-Asian countries in particular are also pushing robots for handicapped and elderly care.
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What do you think your session offers to the robotics developer and end-user community?
I will share insights from our work with corporates, financial investors and startups from Europe, the US and China – the leading market for hardware unicorns.
Start-Ups find advice on how to win investors. Corporates learn how they can benefit from the collaboration with start-ups. The view from Asia can serve as inspiration for Western entrepreneurs.
What are you most looking forward to about being at RoboBusiness?
I spend most of my time in China, then Germany and then the US. Whereas China is the world’s biggest and fastest-growing market for robotics, it is still mostly a follower technology-wise. Germany supplies a lot of the world’s most sophisticated manufacturing hardware. However, people there often lack the courage to realize bold entrepreneurial visions. The US combines sound engineering and the necessary business sense that will drive the technological change within the next years. I am excited to meet many of the people pushing this development forward at RoboBusiness.